it’s been four years || my life
Four years ago today. Four years.
It was the most beautiful day, a warm and sunny Sunday. At that time I was working as a legal assistant at a law firm in Beachwood and was (what I thought at that time) overworked and exhausted. My friend had called me to see if I wanted to take a trip to Geneva on the Lake for some amusement park fun. I hesitated but decided to actually enjoy myself on my weekend off. Timing is an amazing thing. The places that it puts you, exactly where you need to be, when you need to be there.
I remember small details of this day. Small details that I would never remember about any other day. It’s funny how when something deeply changes who you are as a person, the things you are able to remember.
I remember that it was so windy. I remember that my friend’s boyfriend was an awful driver and sped the whole trip and I hated being in the car. I remember a conversation we had about the cooler for drinks he had in his car in place of a glove compartment – I don’t know why, but I thought that was really cool. As we were having this conversation about the cooler we passed the house I grew up in. I remember this conversation because while this conversation was taking place, my best friend was calling me. Not just once, not twice, not three times but repeatedly. I thought that something silly probably happened with her boyfriend and I didn’t want to be rude and answer the phone with them in the car. When the calls didn’t stop, I answered. That’s when everything changed. When a piece of me was forever transformed.
“Kayla, something happened. Jeremy …” When I heard my little brother’s first name I immediately started crying, sobbing, thinking that something horrific had happened to my little brother. “No, no, no – it’s not Jeremy, it was Zach.” The sobbing became more intense, I couldn’t breathe or think or feel or move – for a brief moment I thought I lost my little brother and just a short moment later I realized I lost who I looked to as my other little brother, Jeremy’s best friend.
We were a minute from the house I grew up in and they turned the car around to take me to see my family. Jeremy, my old next door neighbor and his mom were there. We sobbed. We hugged. We sobbed more. How did this happen? Zach. Little Buddy. Sweet Pea. My little brother’s best friend. He was a part of our family. A huge part. Though I’ve experienced divorce, sadness and loss, nothing will ever compare to this moment in my life. Complete sorrow and longing. Confusion and loneliness. More sorrow and longing.
That night my brother and all of his friends, Zach’s best friends, decided to come to my house and stay the night. We stayed up, drank beers in his honor, shared stories, cried, comforted one another and eventually fell asleep. When my little brother was sleeping that night, he was calling out for Zach in his dreams. To this day, nothing breaks my heart more than that.
The following days and weeks are a blur and still so clear at the same time. I remember the fourth of July, being at a party and then the firework display. I had to leave the party to call my mom and weep for his loss. During the fireworks downtown I sobbed with Rick’s arms wrapped around me. How did this happen? No, why did this happen?
I remember the calling hours, the first time my whole family was together since the divorce, I remember us coming together for this moment. I remember the line that wrapped around the entire funeral home. Everyone knew and loved Zach. I know that everyone says that about everyone who passes away, but it couldn’t be more true. I remember my little brother holding it together until we got inside – when he saw his pictures he broke down. My strong, 6′ 5″ “little” brother was broken. I was broken. My mom was broken. Every single person there was grieving this loss. My little brother and I went to get tattoos after he passed. I got a small “Z” on my ankle and he got a beautiful tattoo on his arm. When we made it up to the casket Jeremy showed him his tattoo with tears streaming down his face.
I remember his funeral. I remember sobbing, I remember them playing “walk it out” and laughing for a brief moment because he would have loved that and then I remember sobbing thinking that although he would have loved that, he’s not with us to hear it. He was so loved, so young.
I remember my first trip to his grave. One time we took a trip down to my mom’s home in southern Ohio – Zach and I shared a cigarette while I drove front seat and he was in the back seat. When we got the flat tire and backed up traffic on 71 for hours, we smoked. We laughed. I was frustrated by how long it took to get the spare on, by how delayed our trip and arrival to my mom’s would be. So, he danced. He made a fool of himself to lighten my mood and make me laugh. My first trip to his grave I shared a cigarette, I read the letters laid all around, looked at the gifts left and wondered who they were from and what they meant. He is buried in the most peaceful place. Surrounded by trees and country, exactly where he would have hoped to lay to rest. It was so peaceful for my first visit. A soft breeze, a setting sun.
It’s been four years. Four years. And there is not one day that goes by that I do not think of him or miss him. I love you Zach, little buddy, sweet pea.